Matthew Mather, wine director at Frasca Food and Wine, has been an integral part of the award-winning wine program that the Boulder restaurant established for several years. Today, that wine program, led by Mather and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, is up for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Wine Service. This is the fourth consecutive year for Frasca Food and Wine as a finalist in this category of the prestigious awards.
Eater sat down with Mather, who is an Advanced Sommelier under the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Master Sommelier candidate, to talk about his path into the wine world, his mentors, and the advice he has for wine drinkers everywhere.
Were there signs of your future in wine anywhere in your childhood and upbringing? Not really. I grew up on an island off the coast of British Columbia in Canada and, quite frankly, my parents were not at all interested in wine. They drank beer and if the did drink wine, it was usually Okanagan Valley jug wine. Similkameen Superior. The good stuff.
When did you know this was the path you wanted to follow and what made you realize that? When I moved to NYC in 1993, I worked with chef Scott Bryan at Luma, That is where I really began to fall in love with the vast world of wine. Working at Luma allowed me to taste a variety of very old and expensive wine selections - just a great opportunity for a young aspiring sommelier.
Why did you choose Frasca and why have you stayed for so long? I moved to Boulder in In 2003and quickly met Bobby Stuckey. By August of 2004, I joined an all-star opening team at Frasca Food and Wine. I never wanted to leave. It is fantastic to be able to do what I am able to do in a town like Boulder.
What is your philosophy of wine service? Listening is absolutely the best approach to building great guest relationships. Asking the right questions and connecting that information to a desired price point is really the most successful path to happy customers and good wine service.
This is probably like asking you to choose among your children, but what was the single most memorable wine you have ever tasted? In the last year or two I would say an amazingly fresh 1959 Charles Noellat Romanee St Vivant. Extraordinary and perfectly stored. And it had been the same family cellar since the mid 1970's, so I knew there was no question of authenticity.
If you have a mellow night at home and friends to share a bottle of wine with, what do you open? Right now I would drink rose, snappy aromatic whites, and for reds, Sangiovese or fresher style, middle-weight Grenache.
What are three pieces of advice you can give to guests buying wine at the store for their own consumption at home? Try different things, be adventurous. There has never been a wider array of really exciting choices than there are right now. Take advantage of them and explore more options every single time.
What are the three pieces of advice you can give guests ordering wine in a restaurant? Ask questions. If you are out of your element or comfort zone on a wine list get some information and make a decision based on a description. If no one can help with the wine selection, use your iPhone to glean some details online. There's nothing wrong with that. But mostly, don't be afraid to try to venture in undiscovered territory. The infinite possibilities are a huge part of what makes wine endlessly enjoyable.
Who is your wine hero or mentor, aside from Bobby Stuckey? Brett Zimmerman, Master Sommelier and owner of Boulder's best wine store, the Boulder Wine Merchant. He is extraordinarily generous in terms of insight and has unquestionably raised the bar on Boulder wine significantly, whether through mentorship or organizing and creating Boulders annual Fall Burgundy Fest.